The longer Johnathan Hankins remains unsigned, the more likely it seems that he'll return to the Giants. And if he does, credit the patient approach of GM Jerry Reese and his bosses. Because they read the market right, and played this perfectly.
They could've jumped to find a replacement for the 25-year-old Hankins, or tried to make him move by threatening to pull their offer. Instead they made him what a team source said they believe is a very fair, very lucrative multi-year offer before free agency began. Then they left it there on the table, convinced nobody would top it and that Hankins' agent, Kevin Poston, would badly overplay his hand.
They were right on all counts. Poston went in to free agency hoping that Hankins would get at least as much, and maybe more than the five-year, $46.25 million deal the Giants gave Damon Harrison last spring. It appears that no one came close to that offer. Despite being a good, promising young defensive tackle, he has drawn almost no interest, according to league sources. And teams that have called were almost immediately scared away by his price.
Meanwhile, as co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch both said at the NFL owners meetings this week, their offer is still there, and they have no intention of pulling it. Except for a small leak to the NFL Network about a week ago that they wanted an answer, they have carefully avoided putting any pressure on Hankins' camp. They haven't lowered their offer either, even though they certainly have the leverage to do it.
In short, they haven't embarrassed him. They haven't burned any bridges. They are just waiting for him to decide to come home.
And if he doesn't? Sure, the Giants would miss him. When asked about the Giants' contingency plans, coach Ben McAdoo said "It's still early in the process." They do have Jay Bromley, a former third-round pick, and Robert Thomas, a player they really like who battled an undisclosed illness most of last season. But neither of them are in Hankins' class.
So the Giants will wait -- probably at least until the draft, when they might at least have to consider taking a defensive tackle on one of the first two days. And if Hankins decides to return before then, he may get plenty of questions about his odd free-agent adventure, but he'll still have plenty of money in his pocket from the Giants. They've gone out of their way to remain loyal and fair to him.
It remains a good bet that eventually their efforts will pay off.
Never say 'Never say never' again … please
When McAdoo was asked about whether the Giants were interested in free agent running back Adrian Peterson on Tuesday, he said "Never say never." When he did, anyone who has covered the Giants for more than five minutes rolled their eyes. Still, his words commanded some attention.
But here's the thing, the Giants under McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese, and to an extent under Tom Coughlin before that, almost never publicly rule out anything. It's their default, dismissive reaction -- just their way of blowing off the question without confirming anything.
For what it's worth, they're right to do that because … well, you never know. At the moment there seems to be no chance the Giants will sign Peterson -- a 32-year-old with injury issues and personal baggage. Several team sources have indicated there's no interest there. But who knows what will change in the next days, weeks and a months?
For now, though, calm down and feel free to roll your eyes.
The future (at quarterback) really might be now
I do not think the time is right for the Giants to draft a future franchise quarterback -- but I think they might do it anyway.
It's a little too early to tell with the draft still nearly a month away, but multiple team sources have indicated the Giants aren't just talking about drafting a franchise quarterback in the first- or second-round, they're actually serious about doing it. It's not that they plan to, but they are more open to the idea than they have been in any year since they traded up in the draft to nab Eli Manning.
For a team that also seriously thinks it can win the Super Bowl this year, that's a big risk because a first- or second-round player could offer immediate help to a roster that still has a few holes. Rather than taking a player that could really push them closer to winning a Super Bowl in the next few seasons, they'd be taking one whom they hope doesn't take a snap until 2020.
But when I ran that issue by co-owner John Mara on Wednesday, he said the bigger concern would be seizing the opportunity if the right player fell into their lap. So while they might not be intending on drafting a quarterback, keep an eye on Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson on draft day. If one of them slips all the way to 23, don't be surprised if the Giants jump.
Giants are no longer running on empty
The Giants haven't had a Top 10 running game since 2010 (and no higher than No. 14 in 2012), and last season they ranked a dismal 29th. But despite not doing a whole lot in free agency, McAdoo is convinced they'll be a much better running team this year.
Why? Some of that surely has to do with the promise of young running back Paul Perkins, but a lot of it has to do with their two new, underrated additions up front -- tight end Rhett Ellison and offensive lineman D.J. Fluker - not to mention receiver Brandon Marshall.
"I agree with that," McAdoo said. "I think Rhett offers a lot right there to us as a pro-style tight end. He can help show the way to some of the young players we have there in the tight end room. That'll make a difference there. Fluker's a big man. He can block out the sun. Brandon almost didn't fit through my doorway. Fluker didn't. He had to turn sideways to get through the doorway. He's a big man."
His point is, it's all about size and blocking. Ellison is a 6-5, 250-pounder who figures to be the best blocking tight end the Giants have had in years. The 6-5, 339-pound Fluker is a powerful lineman, wherever he fits in. And Marshall is 6-4, 230 and a terrific blocker as well.